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Capitol Roundup: Diapers, Janitors And Drones

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers churned through more than a hundred bills Tuesday as they worked to meet Wednesday's midnight end-of-session deadline. 

The Assembly voted to give diaper vouchers worth $50 per month to California parents on welfare, starting in 2020.

It also approved a bill that seeks to prevent the sexual assault of janitors – especially female immigrants. It’s in response to the PBS documentary “Rape on the Night Shift.”

The Assembly voted to ban state contracts of $100,000 or more with companies that illegally discriminate against sovereign nations. That bill is specifically aimed at boycotts against Israel.

The Senate approved a bill that backers hope will make it easier for California State University students to graduate on time. It would create a program to let CSU campuses enter into contracts with students. The schools would promise to provide Bachelor’s degrees to incoming freshmen within four years, or transfer students within two years.

These bills now all move to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. He’ll have a month to decide whether to sign them.

Bill Allowing More Parents To Take Job-Protected Time Off From Work Passes Legislature

More new parents in California would be able to take job-protected time off from work - while keeping their health insurance - under a bill that cleared a crucial vote in the Legislature Tuesday evening.

The measure would let workers at companies that employ 20 or more people take up to six weeks off, down from the current 50-employee law.

The bill went through a dramatic series of vote changes as it passed the Assembly. 

When the roll call was first opened, 35 votes popped up. Then, the roll was held open for several minutes - an uncharacteristically long length of time. 

Vote by vote, the 'ayes' gradually trickled in. And it eventually cleared passage with 44 votes.

Then, even more astoundingly, after the vote had been closed, 10 Assembly members added their 'yes' votes on - which is allowed under Assembly rules as long as the overall bill result hasn't changed. This vote-changing practice has drawn criticism in the past because it allows lawmakers to change their positions after a bill's fate has been decided. 

The Assembly members who originally did not vote and later changed their votes to 'Aye' are:

  • Asm. Katcho Achadjian (R)
  • Asm. Juan Arambula (D)
  • Asm. Autumn Burke (D)
  • Asm. Rocky Chavez (R)
  • Asm. Jimmy Gomez (D)
  • Asm. Eric Linder (D)
  • Asm. Brian Maienschein (R)
  • Asm. Melissa Melendez (R)
  • Asm. Kristin Olsen (R)
  • Asm. Marie Waldron (R)

In the end, it passed with 54 votes.

The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote.


More Safety Equipment Required For Private Pools 

The California Legislature has voted to require more safety equipment at private swimming pools.

Democratic Assemblyman Kansen Chu authored the measure.

"Research shows that adults need the help and support of pool safety warning systems in keeping kids away from a pool unsupervised," said Chu.

Under the bill, families who install a new pool or update an existing one would have to make sure it has at least two of seven specified safety features. They include pool covers, mesh fences, and alarms. Current law requires pools to have one of those features.

The bill now moves to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

Assembly Passes Measure Requiring Cost Recovery For Concealed Carry Permits 

Cities and counties in California would need to recover costs for concealed carry permits, under a bill the Assembly sent to Governor Jerry Brown Tuesday. The measure would raise permit prices, prompting a debate about good government versus backdoor gun control. 

Current law caps the base fee a local government can charge at $100 a permit. The bill’s author, Sacramento Democrat Kevin McCarty, says that’s costing the county $250,000 a year.

"Whether it’s a building permit, a marriage license, or any type of service from a local government, you want to make sure you have a full cost recovery," says McCarty. 

Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez suggested an ulterior motive for the measure.

She says, "The author is annoyed and has been quoted in the press that his local sheriff hands out CCW permits like candy. That’s what this is about—pricing people out."

The measure passed the Assembly with the minimum required votes.

Tighter Drone Regulation Bills Sent To Governor

California lawmakers have sent two bills that would more tightly regulate drone use to Governor Jerry Brown. 

When measures return from one chamber of the California Legislature to the other for a final approval vote known as “concurrence,” lawmakers typically tell their colleagues how their bills were amended in the other house.

Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto brought up his drone regulation measure that was changed without his permission.

“The Senate amendments, I kind of feel, took out half the bill. But this is a very important bill,” said Gatto.

His measure did win Assembly approval. It would require drone owners to buy liability insurance and that drones with GPS systems be geofenced to block operation within prohibited areas like airports and fire zones.

A second bill would grant civil immunity to first responders who damage or destroy hobbyist drones during firefighting or search-and-rescue operations. That measure passed the Senate.

Both bills now advance to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. But their fates are far from clear. Brown vetoed most drone bills that reached his desk last year, citing concerns that ranged from premature regulations to the creation of redundant new criminal violations. 

Low-Income and First-Generation CSU Students Could Receive Priority Registration If Governor Signs Bill

Low-income and first-generation California State University students could get extra help toward graduating on time under a bill that’s won final approval in the state Legislature.

The measure would allow CSU campuses to enter into contracts with students that would provide priority registration and academic advising. In exchange, the students would be required to achieve a minimum GPA and keep an active course load.

Democratic Senator Steve Glazer says the bill would cost the state and CSU very little new money.

“What we have been trying to do with this legislation is create this focus on efficiency – without affecting quality, without affecting affordability, without affecting access,” says Glazer.

The contracts would guarantee that incoming freshmen could graduate with a Bachelor’s degree within four years, and transfer students within two years.

The measure passed the state Senate Tuesday without opposition. Governor Jerry Brown has until the end of next month to act on it.